If you’re an expecting mum and you’re getting ready to meet your little one soon, it may be time for you to start thinking about a birth plan.
There are many different options for labour and delivery, which can sometimes be a bit overwhelming, especially for first time mothers. It could help you feel more relaxed and in control to sit down and at least talk about what you want out of the delivery process.
The more you know about labour, delivery, and how to make a thorough birthing plan, the more prepared you will be for the big day. So keep reading to learn everything you need to know about creating a birth plan.
What is a birth plan and why do I need one?
Very simply put, a birth plan is a document that you provide to your doctor or midwife that will tell them all of your preferences for labour and delivery. It’s good to discuss options verbally with your doctor, but a birthing plan will both help you sort through all your options and help your doctor remember all of your specifications for the labour and delivery process.
A birth plan is not a requirement, but there is no better way to keep your medical team clued in to what you want from your birthing experience, including what they should do in case a dangerous situation arises. Remember that there are many circumstances that are out of anyone’s control, so letting them know how you feel about issues like emergency caesareans or forceps delivery in the birth plan can help ensure that things go as closely as possible to how you want.
What to consider when writing a birth plan
You may be wondering just where you should start writing a birthing plan. Well, the first thing you should do is a little bit of research. There are many different factors, physical and emotional, that you need to consider. Here are some of the things to think about and keep in mind before you begin making your decisions for a birth plan:
- Do you have any health risks, conditions, or medical problems that could make it risky to give birth outside of a hospital?
- Where do you want to give birth, and what are the standard operating procedures of that location? Also, what special facilities, such as a birthing pool, could you have access to if you asked?
- What kind of birth best matches your lifestyle or personal philosophy?
- Does the baby’s father have any preferences?
- If you know anyone who recently had a child, what did they enjoy about the delivery experience, and what would they change if they could?
What to include in a birth plan
Once you have taken those preliminary factors into consideration, you can begin answering specific questions and writing down your birth plan. You can either create your own or use a birth plan template, which will help you make sure to cover key points.
Some of the main preferences that you’ll want to clarify in a birth plan include:
- The place of delivery – Are you planning to give birth in a hospital, a birthing centre, at home, or somewhere else?
- Labour and birthing positions – Do you want to lie in a bed, try a squat, or even explore an alternative birthing position?
- Options for pain relief – Would you like an epidural, no medication, or something in between? Will you try natural pain relief techniques?
- Birth partner and other companions –Who will be present during the delivery? Will you want all of the same people present even in the event of an emergency caesarean or other emergency procedure?
- Preferences for forceps or vacuum delivery – Which would you prefer if it became necessary?
- Preferences for caesarean – Do you want to pre-emptively choose to have this done in order to avoid a potentially dangerous situation? Or, how serious does the situation need to be for you to be comfortable with having a C-section?
- Additional equipment – Will you require or be bringing with you any extra items like mats, bars, pillows, or bean bags to assist you during labour?
- Who will cut the cord – Would you like the doctor to do it, or your birthing partner?
- Who will tell you the sex – In case you don’t already know, would you like the doctor to tell you, or would you like you and your partner to discover it on your own?
- Any plans for the placenta or umbilical cord – Would you like medical assistance to help expel the placenta from your body more quickly? Are you planning on doing anything with the umbilical cord, such as storing cord blood at a centre?
Your birth plan: Options for pain relief
This topic is one of the most important for many expecting mums, so it should be addressed in your birth plan. The idea of labour pain scares many women, and there are several different options to choose from. Here are the most common:
- Natural or self-help methods – These include special breathing techniques, using special movements to help your muscles relax, adopting specific positions that can ease pain, or even getting massages.
- Water birth – Another way to relax your muscles and lessen the pain is to bathe in hot water during labour, delivery, or both. The water will be hot, but not to exceed 37.5 C.
- Gas – Also known as laughing gas, oxygen and nitrous oxide gas can be used to help manage some of the pain while leaving the mother conscious and in control. If it isn’t effective enough, it is safe to use in conjunction with some other methods.
- Injections – Either pethidine or diamorphine is injected into the thighs or buttocks. It provides more pain relief than gas options, and the two can be used together.
- Epidural – The big mama of labour pain relief, the epidural is an injection into the spine that numbs the nerves connecting the birth canal to the brain. It is considered by most to be the most effective pain relief method, but it doesn’t work 100% of the time. It is also somewhat controversial, as there are some safety risks involved. The procedure must be done by a specialist, and your baby’s heart rate will need to be monitored afterward.
Your birth plan: Choices for assisted delivery
Sometimes women need a little bit of help to deliver the baby. This is called an assisted delivery. It can take place because the mother is too tired (usually after many hours of being in labour), the baby’s heart rate doesn’t seem safe, the little one is in an improper position or there is some kind of health concern. These are the most common options for assisted delivery:
- Forceps – This metal tool looks a bit like tongs and is inserted by the doctor, then placed very carefully around the baby’s head in a way that will allow him to be pulled out.
- Ventouse – Also known as a vacuum extractor, this tool uses suction at the crown of the baby’s head to pull him out.
- C-section – This surgical procedure is almost always safe, but should still be taken seriously. Some women plan to have one all along, especially if expecting multiples or if they have had one before with another baby. However, sometimes emergency situations arise during pregnancy and doctors will turn to the C-section as a last resort. They will only perform this surgery if it is the safest option.
Caring for your baby after birth
Of course, delivery is only the beginning! You’ll have to pay attention to many different details about your baby’s health just after he is born. Some of the things your doctor will tell you to look for include:
- Jaundice, which is fairly common among newborns
- Any skin irregularities, rashes, bruises, or birth marks
- The cleanliness of the umbilical cord stump, which will dry out and fall off several days after birth
- Fontanelles, or the soft spots on his skull where the bones haven’t finished fusing together
- Genitals and breasts, which sometimes can seem swollen or even release some fluids due to the residual hormones in the baby’s body.
In our article about newborn babies, you will find some more information on what to expect from your baby right after he's born and what will the doctors check then.
Though a birth plan isn’t a requirement, we at Captain Mums strongly recommend that you write one. Not only will it help you and your partner sort out your own preferences from all the options available during labour and delivery, but it will remind your doctor of everything you want throughout the process. Now get to writing!